Suicide in Construction – Building a Better Attitude to Mental Health
The risk of suicide in the construction industry and building trade is 1.6 times higher than the UK average. Let’s just think about that for a second, 1.6 times higher! For roofers, tilers and slaters the risk rises to 2.7 times higher. This isn’t a coincidence, something in the industry is going catastrophically wrong and more organisations are realising that it is time that something is done to address these issues. With World Health Day fresh in our minds and Mental Health Awareness Week around the corner in May (13th-19th), it is a good time to take a look at mental health and the wellbeing of those around us. Why is the suicide rate so high in construction? Firstly, 75% of all suicides in the UK are male, it is the biggest killer of men under 50, with those over 40 at the highest risk. Bearing in mind that the construction industry is male dominated it isn’t surprising that the rate is higher. One factor that is repeatedly highlighted is the “macho” nature of the industry. It has been drummed into men for years that “boys don’t cry”. This has translated to not talking about issues, thoughts and feelings which in turn can escalate into isolation and depression. For many years it has been considered weak for a man to have mental health issues and that he should “just get on with it”. It is easy to see how a person’s wellbeing is not really a concern for people adopting this mindset, perhaps not understanding the negative effect it has until it is too late. Another reason cited for the high suicide rate is the hire and fire attitude in the construction industry; particularly for manual workers. For a middle-aged male working to support himself and his family, fear of losing his income or not knowing where the next pay-check will come from can be a source of great stress. There is an assumption, rightly or wrongly, that admitting a mental health issue could put them at greater risk of being laid off, therefore keeping their head down feels like the only option. Finally, coupled with feeling unable to talk about any feelings of stress, anxiety or depression, workers may not know how to even go about it. Starting the conversation about mental health is incredibly difficult no matter who you are, but if you have no idea where to start, no prompts or support it makes this crucial first step virtually impossible. Times are changing Thankfully, partly due to a number of high-profile initiatives, it is finally being recognised that more support is needed within the construction industry to assist those who need it most. Terry Rigby, Director and Founder of Forward for Life states “The problem itself isn’t the problem. The problem is not recognising the problem as a problem that can be overcome through an achievable solution.” With the right training and experience, it is possible for employers to catch mental health warning signs early and to prevent a worker from going down the dark lonely path to depression or suicide. How can you help? Sadly, there is still a stigma surrounding mental health issues but if the industry can chip away at this little by little, eventually mental health will be seen as no less a weakness than say catching the flu. There are numerous tools and best practices available to support your staff. Best Practice - Encourage staff to talk Do your staff feel that they could talk to someone if they are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or even depressed? Make it clear that they are supported, have a section in your employee handbook specifically addressing mental health. Put posters up in site cabins to remind people that they are not alone. Some companies have started men’s support groups. Talk about mental health, lead by example and show that there is no shame in feeling stressed out. The Considerate Constructors Scheme have reported on some fantastic employer stories and what they are doing to support staff. Prevention is better than cure If you can, appoint and train a mental health first aider, or several depending on the size of your organisation. Not every organisation has the luxury of a trained mental health first aider to spot the tell-tale signs of stress and anxiety but having one could be the difference between losing a team member or not. MHFA are rolling out training to many construction organisations throughout England. Ensure all staff are educated in the signs so that they are equipped to notice the first signs of mental health illness and to ask if a colleague is okay if their behaviour alters. If flexible working is an option, this is a great way for employees to regain balance between work, family and wellbeing. All too often, once work and family are taken care of in the working week there is rarely time for anything else. Building in even just half an hour a day to focus on exercise, time away from site, mindfulness can be the difference between a healthy and productive worker or a burnt out one. Join the action and be part of the solution The charity Mates in Mind was set up specifically to support construction workers calling time on outdated attitudes. They work with charities such as Mind and the Samaritans to help employers understand the options available to them to help support their staff. There is a handy tools section on their website guiding you through how to become part of the solution. Companies can join Mates in Mind to fight the stigma and raise awareness. The Building Mental Health Charter is another organisation that companies can join to show their support of the movement to improve mental health in construction. By joining you have access to a number of tools to help you to support your staff. They work with charities such as Mind, Heads Together and The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and The Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Why not set yourself a target to adopt some of the best practices and help to ensure your workers feel supported? Let’s get talking about mental health, it’s okay not to be okay. Useful resources https://www.mind.org.uk/?gclid=CjwKCAjwy7vlBRACEiwAZvdx9p7Duv4s_d1oV2tz_hOLEbKGbyl-ApMZCuKpCqGkxPmThQduDtay_BoC-tEQAvD_BwE https://www.headstogether.org.uk/?gclid=CjwKCAjwy7vlBRACEiwAZvdx9tX4yfd1xH-wy4Pi4GG1aWnmQkc2GkCZBvuqaWxt5Sh1JDyKoVCf0RoCE50QAvD_BwE https://www.royalfoundation.com/ https://www.constructionnews.co.uk/news/data-news/suicide-statistics-a-wake-up-call-for-construction-28-03-2017/
Blue Monday Motivation
Blue Monday, the third Monday in January, is infamous for being the most depressing day of the year. But just because this day has been dubbed the most miserable, should we dwell on what is depressing us en masse… or rather, do something positive to kick those negative associations far over the horizon? Why so blue? The thinking behind Blue Monday is logical when you look at the facts, few people can honestly say they love Mondays, January is a long month, typically wintery and grey, with a longer than usual wait for pay day, the bright an twinkly hullabaloo of Christmas seems like a distant memory yet we’re all still paying off the credit cards bills as a result, and we’re all expected to just slot back into the usual work regime as normal, getting up in the dark and arriving home in the dark – meaning many people fall into a downward spiral by sheer dint of the fact that a perfect storm for feeling blue has well and truly landed! To top it off this year, we are all a bit overwhelmed with the many issues surrounding Brexit and are probably fed up of hearing about it all if we’re honest, and that’s before we have even considered where we are with our list of New Year’s Resolutions… feeling blue yet? If you are, don’t panic, you’re clearly not alone! It is true, January can be a challenging month as we get back into the day-to-day ‘swing’ and plan for the seemingly long year ahead. For the construction industry, many projects have reached completion and there is often the interim period of waiting for new projects to begin. If you’re feeling the lull this Blue Monday, we’ve got a few things up our sleeve to lift you up… A fresh start Assess your career – our day job is what consumes most hours in our day so it’s vital that you’re in your happy place when you go there. Pick up the phone or message us on social and book yourself in for a free career consultation with Harvey Lawrence, our skilled team of construction recruitment specialists are on-hand to ensure you never feel blue on a Monday ever again! If you’re feeling the pinch after Christmas, maybe you could be earning more, ask us how your salary benchmarks against others in your profession. Fancy a fresh challenge, seizing a new opportunity? If you’ve been in your current role for a little while and don’t feel like you’re making headway, get in touch. If you’ve spoken to us in the past and now have a few more years under your belt, we could have just the role for you… Brighten someone’s day Give Blue Monday a poke in the eye by doing something lovely for a colleague, friend, stranger (think Random Acts of Kindness). You’ll be surprised how even something as simple as grabbing an extra coffee from the machine for your work mate and seeing the smile on their face can cheer you up too. It’s all about the goals Set yourself some personal goals (goals are more serious and focussed than resolutions). Whether it’s getting back to the gym, improving your distances, or better utilising your time – make it specific and write it down, today! Four times a week in the gym, a half marathon in under 2 hours, 4 hours a week working for a local charity – make it count and make a commitment to something other than work. If you are an employer – don’t let your teams succumb to Blue Monday misery, instead schedule personal reviews to set objectives, personal targets and aspirations for the year ahead. Lift staff out of any malaise by helping them to visualise their goals and rewards. Revisit promotion goals and remind your team you’re right there to help them achieve. Plan some you-time We guarantee that this Blue Monday buster will have you feeling brighter in an instant! Schedule your annual holidays; choose a new destination you haven’t been to previously, and space them out so you have things to look forward to throughout the year. This way, the year will be punctuated with good things to look forward to and the time in between will seem to go faster. If you are an employer, encourage staff to plan their holidays for the year so that they don’t get overworked, jaded and demoralised. This also serves to assist with planning staff resources and will result in better individual output. Win-win! Be more social, really When was the last time you did something as a family or as a work group? Ensure you don’t feel isolated by bringing lots of people together for a group event or a get-together. Real life social events have the power to uplift mood rather than spending lots of time on social media which has been proven to cause the opposite. At work, if you’re the boss, organise group away-days which is a great opportunity to review business strategy or maybe organise a group teambuilding day. Build in half business and half fun to the agenda (and pick an inspiring venue or location too). CSR (corporate social responsibility) Most organisations are involved in some form of charitable activity. If your workplace isn’t, talk to your employer about getting something set up whereby you can be allowed a set amount of time off per month to do something good for a good cause. In the construction industry, this may be helping a local school learn the benefits of a career in the industry, donating surplus building supplies or time to fix run down areas etc. Flexible working In 2017, Construction News reported that over a period of 5 years in the construction industry, more than 1,400 people had taken their own lives, more than in any other profession. Unnerving statistics and something that both colleagues and employers are encouraged to look out for in the workplace (learn more at MHFA England). Blue Monday may seem like a trivial phenomenon when faced with stats like this, but it should serve as a reminder that we can all feel demoralised and downtrodden by the ‘treadmill’ of work. If flexible working is an option, then this is something to be considered in order to ease the pressure, increase motivation and add some variety to our work life balance. Keeping an open door and an open mind to people who may be suffering is the first step to getting people back on track. Join in the conversation with Harvey Lawrence over on our social channels, on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn or contact us to speak confidentially about your next career move.
SHOW ME THE MONEY … OR IS THERE MORE TO IT?
Every New Year we see a surge in people coming back after the festive period looking for new jobs. Is it that they are looking for more money or is it that they don’t like something else about their current job? In our experience as long- standing construction recruiters, we believe that the “something else” is the real reason and that money is rarely the major driver. More money is normally an easier reason given at resignation stage when you are sat in front of your boss and you just prefer not to give the real reason. It makes the resignation meeting, probably not a relished meeting, much easier and hassle free for the employee. Similarly, in a market where employers are all competing for the same skills sets and staff, one of the quickest and easiest levers to persuade someone to join is to offer more money but this in itself needs to be examined closely. When we do see a move motivated purely by money, it is often a short term move because there are other factors that haven’t been closely considered about the move. Here we share some useful insights based on our experience including the reasoning and pitfalls of money-motivated moves to both employees and employers – It is rare that a salary increase makes a definable difference to lifestyle once appropriate deductions have been made. In order to make such a difference to lifestyle, we feel it would need to be an absolute minimum of 10 percent increase of gross salary. So, our advice is to crunch the numbers and not be blinded by the figure on the contract and make your decision based on the reality and not perception. It is worth considering if an employer is making an exceptional offer, perhaps an increase of 15 percent of gross per annum salary or above, why they are doing this. There could be a number of reasons where they have to make exceptional offers to attract people such as a declining business, a poor track record in attracting and retaining staff, long hours or working away from home, an unattractive benefits package in terms of car policy, pension, healthcare and bonus to name a few. There will almost always be a reason why employers pay well over the odds to attract people. Our advice is to do your research as more money is clearly an attractive proposition but quickly loses its appeal against adverse circumstances. There are quick checks you can do including a credit check, speaking to clients, subcontractors and former and current employees of the business. Make sure feedback is current and well- informed. Remember you spend a lot of time at work and other factors need to stack to make the job an enjoyable one. Money aside, what do we feel are the real reasons that people move. Most people know these but to name the key ones – don’t get on with the boss, don’t like the company culture, company restructuring and management change, lack of work, travel and feeling overlooked for promotion. So, let’s look at them and what can be done to avoid some of the issues relating to them: DON’T GET ON WITH THE BOSS - We think this is right at the top of the list. There is no doubt that If you don’t get on with the boss or feel you don’t get on, that this is quick route to failure. Most people walk away from this situation rather than try and resolve it and that is often on both sides. However, it could well be avoided as not getting on is normally based on poor communication, not addressing issues and letting things fester. Amongst the stress of deadlines, actually sitting down and discussing things calmly gets neglected. It’s a shame this doesn’t happen more as it could offer massive improvement for staff retention. Also, within site teams it is probably not easy for someone to have an independent person to speak to. Really this should be covered within the review process. How much preparation and time actually goes into the review process or is the review approached as a task that has to be completed. Such an approach is never going to have a successful outcome. Also, is there a mechanism for another level of management to be involved so that issues with an immediate line manager can be highlighted and dealt with. COMPANY CULTURE - We spend most of our lives at work so liking the business you work for is key and if you don’t like it , there is a real problem. Not many people like change but normally it is that the changes haven’t been communicated well and therefore the employee can often interpret them negatively. One of the main issues that people seem to have is they don’t like what they feel to be ever-increasing process and form filling. They perceive it as desensitising the job and taking the skill away. Most of us recognise the need for compliance and automation but it is clear that good people want to feel that they can make a valued personal contribution and showcase their own talent. When they feel they can’t do this, therein lies a danger of retaining good people. COMPANY RESTRUCTURING AND MANAGEMENT CHANGE - Generally this is kept quiet by senior management until the last moment by which time half the story is out and people have put their own spin on things, one that is not always positive. A communication issue then leads to a “buy in” issue. People can then place themselves on the job market because of what they think is happening as opposed to what is actually happening. Either way, more timely announcements could help staff retention. As an employee why not ask to speak to a senior manager to ask your own questions about the business and then make your own judgement before placing yourself on the job market. LACK OF WORK - This shouldn’t be the case in this market and if it is, there is clearly a problem. Lack of work and long-term visibility will undoubtedly unnerve people as they remember only too well what lack of works means. This is an extremely hard one to overcome and will always push people into making a job move. We are aware that many companies have internal updates on work – winning but these should be regular and highly informative. People like security and also love the buzz of working for a successful business. TRAVEL/WORKING AWAY FROM HOME - Over the last decade it is clear that there has been a move towards working hard but not at the expense of work / life balance. Therefore, long commutes are definitely something that people look to avoid and this makes local work is very attractive. Commutes of an hour are generally still accepted as normal and anything over that may become an issue. However if they enjoy the business they work for, get on with the team and feel that there is long term work, this doesn’t tend to be a problem. It is perhaps only when the other factors are not acceptable that commuting, unless particularly gruelling, becomes an issue. Working away from home is a different issue and although working away is accepted within some sectors, within the wider industry there has been a definite reluctance of people to work away from home. In the current climate people don’t feel they need to. We often see people that have accepted a role for a project near home to find out that the next project means working away and consequently placing themselves back on the job market. We advise closer examination at interview stage of where the company works and has worked recently. Recruiting people that work more than an hour from the project or office or recruiting people that are not used to working away from home is not a good idea. In terms of working away from home, there probably needs to be attractive perks more than just reimbursement of hotel and travel expenses. We have seen in some instances subsistence allowances changed / reduced and therefore this makes working away an even less attractive proposition. OVERLOOKED FOR PROMOTION - Good people want recognition and will quickly become disillusioned if promises are broken. The appraisal process doesn’t always catch this as what might have been set as objectives for promotion might be undone or ignored, particularly if there is a management change and no “follow through” or a change of opinion/ direction. This is dangerous as one disillusioned employee can lead to several disillusioned employees and before you know it, you can have an exodus of staff. If things don’t happen against agreed objectives and timespans it can become a matter of principle and therefore difficult to correct. We suggest that before taking a stand and placing yourself on the job market, sit down and have a meeting and refresh on objectives set and ask for an explanation why a promotion hasn’t been forthcoming. If at this stage you are not happy with the answers, then perhaps look at your options. It is also just part of business that companies can tend to concentrate on problems first which can often mean good people get overlooked, ironically by virtue of their own ability. This in itself is dangerous and doesn’t promote a culture of keeping your best staff. Our overall message is that job moves are normally based on factors other than money. We feel that money is the excuse given or the symptom but not the cause. Things could be helped enormously by more regular communication. Be wary of joining a business just for money or recruiting an employee that is just interested in a salary increase as in our experience it doesn’t generally bode well. Remember that there are many other important factors to consider, not only the whole benefits package which could make a difference to how a base line salary is viewed, but also the work and the culture of the business, success and ambitions.
Team K2 Paddle for Parkinson's
Matt, who has never been in a kayak before, has set himself a huge challenge to cross the English Channel in a 2-man kayak for Parkinson’s UK in order to raise funds for the charity. This will help with valuable research, development and ongoing support for sufferers, carers and to raise awareness of this disease. Matt will be crossing the world’s busiest shipping lane with Team K2 which will involve an 18-mile journey from Dungeness to Bolougne. Although Matt has never set foot in a kayak, we are reassured by the fact that he is a strong swimmer! Parkinson’s UK is a charity that Harvey Lawrence has supported in recent years and we will be donating again to this valuable cause and supporting Matt in his brave endeavour. Matt has embarked on his training program and we will be keeping you updated in the forthcoming weeks. Every hour, 2 people in the UK are told they have Parkinson's. They estimate the number of people diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2018 in the UK was around 145,000. If you would like to support Matt on his epic journey you can donate at www.justgiving.com and search channelkayakchallenge.